32. The Third Man (1949)

Who knew murder could be so damn fun?

9/10
Directed by: Carol Reed
Written by: Grahame Greene
Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli

Carol Reed’s The Third Man is an aesthetically enjoyable chase that plays with mystery and the bizarrely comical. As a pulp-fiction writer comes to Vienna to take up a job offered by his old friend, Harry Lime, things take a strange turn when he discovers his friend has died … and perhaps, not by accident, as most people believe.

Hello-o-o-o-o-o?

From the moment we step off the train into post-war Vienna,¬† it’s hard not to be completely immersed by the intriguing nature of The Third Man‘s mystery. As writer-turned-amateur detective, Holly Martins (Cotten), cannot shake off his scent with a likeable tenacity and everyman swagger that doesn’t come to easily for the flawed and deeply troubled private detectives we usually see in the film noir genre, we follow clues, twists and turns that inevitably lead to surprising conclusions and what can be summed up as a great picture.

One of the most striking features of Reed’s The Third Man is the unforgettable theme song that consistently flies through the entire film – stressed with greater volume or pace when things get exciting. While I initially laughed out loud at this tune, which sounds a little more like the theme of Spongebob Squarepants than anything else, the film uses the music in such clever and interesting ways so that absurdity and a sense of fun is injected into something that could have been handled seriously… or should we say, predictably.

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